The fate of two schools may hang in the balance as Election Day draws near, and voters must soon decide whether to approve the Barbour County Board of Education's proposed bond and excess levy.
The proposed excess levy would allow Barbour County Schools to provide educational materials, maintenance of facilities, the potential for free meals if the county meets qualifications - and much more. The proposed bond would prevent students who participate in track from having to travel to Buckhannon to practice, and it would allow track meets to be held on-site, among other benefits to students and their families, school officials said.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. F. Joseph Super said the expenditures proposed by the excess levy are something that Barbour County School System should have been providing all along.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Melissa Toothman
Dr. F. Joseph Super, superintendent of Barbour County Schools, explains the benefits of the proposed bond and excess levy to Philippi City Council. The levy and bond will be up for vote on the county’s ballot in November.
"Have we really been doing fine? I don't think there's an absolute answer to that," Super said. "Our current funding sources do not allow us to provide those things."
If the levy does not pass, Super said the county school board may face tough decisions regarding Mount Vernon and Volga-Century elementary schools.
The two schools fall short of their recommended 85 percent student capacity, with student enrollment currently less than 50 percent.
If the bond passes without the levy passing, Super said not all students will see benefits, and it could place an added burden on the cost of maintenance. If the levy passes without the bond, it would have a benefit to all students, but the opportunity to upgrade facilities would be lost.
"When you look at the items that are in the levy, the bulk of those are for kids, either directly or indirectly," Super said. "All an excess levy does is allow you to provide what you should be providing in the first place. Excess levy in education is probably a misnomer."
Super said a number of things can have a poor effect on students, including maintenance issues and a gap in support for external services that support students.
"The support programs - the WVU Extension, the libraries, the health concerns - if we can't support those folks and those folks serve a lot of our kids, it affects their kids adversely," Super said. "The bottom line is our kids deserve (support programs)."
In addition, the levy proposes a free meal service opportunity. Whether the free meal service can be offered is determined by whether the county's school system meets state qualifications. The county has to have at least 40 percent of students who are considered directly certified.
Direct certification is determined by the living situation and household income of the students. If the county qualifies for the program, it receives government reimbursement, which could be anywhere from $1.51 per breakfast to $2.77 per lunch.
"All the levy does is helps us absorb that cost," Super said. "It's still going to cost us money. We have money generated in the regular budget for that."
Barbour County Schools qualified last year with 42 percent of directly certified students. This year, the county is at 39.27 percent. The final determination will be calculated in the spring.
No money generated through the levy is lost, Super said. If Barbour County Schools does not qualify for the program, money designated for the program would then be divided evenly among the other items proposed in the excess levy.
With early voting for the county beginning Oct. 24 and Election Day set for Nov. 6, voters will be faced with the ultimate decision of whether to support the levy.
"We're not hiding the fact that this is an increase in taxes," Super said. "But then the voter has to decide - do they want to support education, or do they not want to support education?"
Super added that he welcomes feedback and suggestions on this issue, or any issue involving local schools.
"We try not to make mistakes up front, but if we do and they're brought to our attention, we correct them," Super said. "If there's a better way to do things, I encourage people to bring suggestions to us."
For more information about the bond and excess levy or to calculate their potential of increasing taxes based on the assessment of personal property, anyone interested can visit www.barbourcitizensforqualityschools.com.